Thursday, March 20, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: Don't Do This to Me Ever

Baby Evil Writers 101
Julie Butcher

So I've been doing a lot of reading for writers lately and some of the openings make me want to go and find the writer and smack them hard in the face.

Your opening is the very first time I get to meet your character and I really want to like them. I do. I’m quite sure that the lovely agents and editors want to love them. So let’s pretend that you are in a car and you've never met this person before. You’re going on a twelve hour drive with them. Just you and them. Now let’s pretend that you are telepathic and that you can read their mind.

Now go and read the first two pages of your manuscript. I’ll wait.
Did you have your character do or say or think any of the following things?

1.       I don’t want to be here.
2.       I hate her/him/it/them.
3.       I’m going to vomit/spit/pee/poop
4.       I need to use the bathroom.
5.       I’m bored.
6.       I’m tired.
7.       Life sucks.
8.       I wish I was dead.
9.       I wish you were dead.
10.   I want to kill them
11.   That anything or anyone is stupid. (Including themselves.)
12.   That anyone or anything is dumb, boring or gross.
13.   They want to have sex with something or someone.

Now I want you to pretend that this stranger character said all of the things that they thought and said directly to you. Do you want to be in the car with them for twelve hours? Because I probably won’t. 

What you’re asking the reader to do is to spend twelve hours with a virtual stranger. FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS EVIL AND WRONG IN THE WORLD do not do those things.

If you met someone at a cocktail party, and they threw up on your little black dress, would you stay around to get to know them?

I wouldn’t.

If they said any of the above things to you, a stranger, would you want to give them your precious time?


All-righty then. Go and delete those pages and introduce your character in a way that shows us who they are inside. Give us a glimpse of the very best part of their soul. Make us want to know them better before we learn their weird preferences and nasty quirks.

No bodily fluids.

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